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OCULA Fall Conference

Apprehending the mysteries: building our profession through mentoring and career development

Mentoring. We all need it; no matter what stage we are at in our career, no matter how many years we’ve worked in libraries.   Support and encouragement are crucial to career development as well as to fostering the new generation of library staff interested in working in academic libraries.

To acknowledge the importance of this process, OCULA hosted a mentoring event at the University of Western Ontario this past September.  Western was an excellent location for this event, not only because it is OCULA Vice-President/President Elect Kristin Hoffman’s home institution but because of the university’s well known Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

The attendees were a perfect mix. Library staff at every career stage attended including directors and chief librarians, senior and junior library staff, as well as library and information science students.

To start the day, Seneca College’s chief librarian Tanis Fink interviewed keynotes Jim Brett, University of Guelph, and Laurie Morrison, Brock University on the meaning of mentoring, its significance for career success and the rewards for all parties involved.

Jim and Laurie advised new graduates or new library employees to seek out the people in libraries who come up with new ideas and move them forward. A good mentor isn’t always the library manager or director, but can be someone who is able to guide others through the organizational culture and might be willing to stick their neck out on behalf of a colleague.

New grads and employees should also find a mentor outside of their institution, someone they can discuss work issues with off-the-record. Finding someone in a library organization (like OCULA) is a great idea!

We then heard from multiple pecha kucha presenters who gave additional perspectives on mentoring on a variety of topics, including mentoring for co-op students and interns, diversity and mentoring, novice groups and publishing and mentoring research.

In the afternoon, Jim and Laurie led interactive sessions where we conducted informational interviews, reviewed resumes and CVs and discussed specific mentoring issues at Birds of a Feather tables.  These exercises  further reinforced the need for mentoring and guidance for all library staff, especially new hires and grads as well as those hoping to make a transition in their career.

By the end of the day, the message was clear: mentoring is a two-way street.  Mentors provide guidance and insight, but mentees can provide fresh ideas and a new perspective—the relationship is mutually beneficial.  Plus, mentees can very quickly become mentors so we need to pay-it-forward and make ourselves available to someone looking for a mentor.

Jennifer Peters is a Teaching and Learning Technologies Librarian at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology. Jennifer can be reached at jennifer.peters[at]

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